Simplicity 101: 10 Organizing Systems That Work for ADHD


If you're like me and are a grown-up with ADHD, then you know just how hard it is to keep your house organized.  Part of the reason we have issues with organization is the sheer fact that our brains are running on a higher speed than everyone else, so if something a) doesn't give us an exact place to put something away and/or b) gives us the opportunity and space to put something in limbo (which is the name of the space we give to that isn't a dedicated home for items), we get overwhelmed and just stuff it in there.  And then, after putting one thing in limbo, all of a sudden, everything is in limbo.  And now we have a huge mess again.  

I recently had this issue with brand new books I just bought.  I had no place dedicated to new books, so they all ended up on my floor next to my bed.  And there was a lot of them.  And they aren't small.  So soon, the pile became an avalanche, and then they spread all over the floor, blocking way into and out of bed (thanks to my dogs knocking them over, but what did I think was going to happen?...they knock everything over).  

That space was limbo and my books ended up there, because while I have a space for all the books I already own, I have zero space for new ones that come into the house.  And then to top it off, right after I bought them, I went into another pain cycle (I have postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), so I just left them there for weeks on end.  

We ADHDers do not have the ability to be organizational on the spot.  We can sometimes, but mostly, we have our dedicated spaces for things, and that's it.  Creating more spaces for things and reorganizing in the moment isn't our forte.  That takes some left-brain power.  And we are mostly right-brained and need some serious planning to get into our left-brain state where we can be organized.  Instead, we are usually very creative and because of that, we love to make things.  And one of those things is usually messes.  So in order to keep our messes (or rather, "our projects") organized, we need organizational systems that speak to our speedy and creative brains.  We need quick and easy, but not only that, we need there to be zero limbo zones.  That means, no quick and easy places to stick just anything.  Which is how I found my own way to stay more organized with my stuff.  I use things that not only speak to my brain, but don't give me the chance to clutter it up with stuff.  Or, at least, less of a chance.  

So here are the top ten organizational systems that I've found that speak to my ADHD brain: 

  1. Curio Cabinets.  The absolute best reason these works are because they have doors on them.  First this keeps dust off our items.  And secondly, we have to make the conscious decision to open the door to stuff something in.  There is something about doors that says to our brains "Yuck, that's a lot of work to go through just to put something in it."  So instead, if you put your beloved items inside of something, items that you want to keep organized, I tell you, you most likely will leave it that way.  If not, then keep telling yourself "This cabinet is for (whatever items) only".  And if you find yourself sticking something in there, remind yourself, and eventually, you'll never do it again. I haven't put a single thing in my curio cabinet since using it for my collection.  I've taken stuff out and put it back, but I've never stuffed with it random items.  And I don't think I ever will.  So get yourself something with a door on it and whatever you put in there will most likely stay organized.  Though make sure it's see-thru, or else you'll forget about what you put in there completely.  
  2. Media Shelves (instead of bookshelves).  These shelves are much less deep than regular bookshelves, as they are meant for CD's and movies, yet, they still have the right amount of room for books.  They don't fit over-sized books as well, but without all that extra space hanging around for "stuffing" (which is what we all do with regular bookshelves, with our little items we can't find homes for).  Then we are forced to make spaces for our little things.  So remember: bookshelves are for stuffing, and media shelves are for keeping your books organized.  I know that makes no lyrical sense, but it's the truth.  Just say no to regular bookshelves.  
  3. Shelves With Baskets (instead of dresser).  I learned this from Cass from and I tell you, this is has changed my freaking life!  Although, even though I leave my bedroom door shut all the time, my cat will still sneak in and get in my bottom basket (I may have to take out my scarves and let him have it), but other that, which isn't often, it works amazingly well.  There is something about opening a drawer that I freaking hate, that I never realized before.  So I am forever grateful to Cass for sharing this idea with her readers, because now I always put my pants away.  Now, I just need to find a place to put my shirts that aren't dirty, but also aren't clean.  Keep tuned, because eventually I will figure that one out.    
  4. Storage Drawers (instead of junk drawers).  This means organized space for junk.  I keep all twist ties off of bread and other packages, because I reuse them for freezer items after opening.  So instead of just laying them all around the junk drawer with other misc. items, I use little tiny bins to keep it all organized.  That way, it's still a junk drawer, but a freaking organized one.  
  5. Magazine Racks (mine spins!).  This works for both good magazines and for big books.  I do really love me some Bella Grace and other magazines, so now I have a fancy spinning magazine rack (that I got on Facebook Marketplace) where I keep them, instead of being stuffed in spaces that will damage them (or cats puking on them in my basement, which is where I had them).  It's open and I can see the books and magazines on it, and it takes up hardly any space.  
  6. Wooden Wall Shelves (painted your favorite colors).  I buy used shelves at resale shops and paint them all the same color and arrange them on my wall to hold like items.  Two of these hang over our bedroom table (that is our desk) to hold office supplies like envelopes, staples and a stapler, a hole puncher, tape, dry erase markers, etc.  If you paint them to look alike, then they look sleek and slick, even those ones with the hearts carved out of them that look folksy when they are just woodgrain.  Hey, if you like woodgrain, don't paint them.  But if you have a lot that don't match, just give them a quick coat of your favorite color and bam, you have a pretty and organized way to house like items.  They are small enough you can't stuff them (though you can, because I have before, and it's not pretty), and big enough to hold the items you need to house.  
  7. Hooks, Hooks, and More Hooks.  I use a hook on the back of my bedroom door for all my camisoles, which has also changed my life.  I have a metal hook installed on the side of my dresser to hang my sweaters and hoodies (and my purse).  I have plastic hooks on the other side to hang my dog walking wristlet.  I have two hooks that hang on the side of my bedside table that hang up a basket that hold my household organizational notebook and other things I need on a regular basis.  I have hooks on the side of one of my media shelves that house my fiction books for my headbands (though I installed them and immediately cut my hair...go figure).  I have one of those over the door 5-hook coat rack things that hangs on our sliding bedroom closet door for my hubby to hang his hoodies, hats, and work stuff.  I use sticky hooks for my seasonal decorations outside of our house.  You can stuff hooks, but boy do they get messy fast.  So instead, just install separate hooks, both permanent and not, for each type of things you need in all the rooms of your house.  And it's quite easy to keep them organized if you have hooks for everything you need. 
  8. Cork Board.  Now, I have a dry erase calendar I got from The Dollar Tree pinned on mine, as well as some phone numbers pinned above it, as well.  But you can use yours for a dedicated place to put items that you need to have immediate access to.  Like unpaid bills.  Or shopping lists.  Or coupons.  If you have more than one type of thing on it, arrange them by type and keep them looking nice by not putting unlike things together on one push pin.  Remember what I said about corralling your mail?  Don't stuff your cork board with junk!  Only put the most important things you need to remember on it.  But this way, you won't ever lose that unpaid bill or important phone number.  Just remember to pitch it when you're done with it.
  9. Dry Erase Board (and fridge).  This is your "Don't Forget" board.  Write that on the top.  And this is the place where you organize everything you need to remember.  Anyone who has ADHD should never live without one of these.  If you don't have one, write on your fridge.  Though test it first in a small area, to make sure it doesn't stain (though if it does, you can use baking soda that's wet on a scrubbie to get it off).  But I mean, this will save your sanity.  But only if your silly kids don't erase what you write on it.  Which mine do, which is why mine is now located in my bedroom.
  10. Bedroom Media/Medicine Containers (magazine holder, hanging baskets, etc.).  Think about your items and say "What can I use this for?".  When I didn't have a side table?  I used a hook above my bed screwed into to my window frame in which I hung a small basket from, to hold my medication.  In the past, I used a wooden floor magazine holder to wrangle up my shoes.  Right now it's stuffed with new books that I don't read, so I'm going to empty it and put the books with the other new books on my floor and find them all a real home instead (and put my shoes back in the magazine holder, because it works).  Think of the stuff you have or the stuff you can get for cheap, and say "What can I use this for?"  Think out of the box.  My curio cabinet houses all my tarot cards (which I use for introspection over at  Curio cabinets are normally for figurines or plates, not boxes of cards.  But I like them there.  Reminds me of when Border's used to be in business and had their tarot cards in a locked in a little glass cabinet.   I use a gorgeous old (and bought used for $25) double pedestal desk for my TV stand.  And the drawers house the items we use, like our PS4, remotes, etc.  Desks are made for office supplies, but they make even prettier statement pieces as a TV stand in your living room.  In my bedroom, I took an ugly old 5-drawer dresser (the tall kind), repainted it with chalk spray paint (brown) and covered the front of the drawers with antique style scrapbooking paper, installed new knobs, and left the top drawer open for my blu-ray player and my gaming laptop, and turned it into our bedroom TV stand.  It's gorgeous, and it was cheap as hell (and not to mention fun as hell) to redo.  The drawers are filled with cleaning and bathroom supplies (because I cannot store my stuff in my bathroom).  The bottom drawer is filled with printer paper only.  I don't stuff anything in there, because every drawer has a purpose, but I will say, if I was not dedicated to keeping it that way, it could easily get stuffed (because drawers are oh-so-stuffable).  So if you're going to do something with drawers, make sure you're dedicated to the purpose.  So, think about the items you already have in your home, can you turn them into something they weren't intended to be in order to make a home for your stuff?  Our ADHD brains crave uniqueness, so get unique and start repurposing your items into homes for other items.  

EXTRA: Color-coded Lists.  Oh yes, I live by these!  I can write all sorts of ideas on a piece of paper, then grab my highlighters and assign each color a category.  And then go through my list and organize it by color.  It speaks to my creative, speedy brain like nothing else does.  This works for cleaning my house or projects that need to be done.  I will make a random of list of everything that needs to be done and do what I said above and then, I can choose items to do by category.  Then I can do one color at at time, and mark them off as I go.  Not only does it make it fun, but it makes list making pretty.  But it also really, really works to keep my brain organized.  And if you're into color and random list making, then this one is for you!  

Some of the items I talked about here do have limbo space in them.  But if you stay dedicated to the purpose in which you assign to them, you can stay organized with them.  If not, then get rid of the limbo item and try again.  The truth about getting organized is finding what works.  If something doesn't work, get rid of it and get something else.  And keep trying until you find the thing that works for you.  We are all different, even with ADHD.  And just because something isn't working doesn't mean we failed, it just means we haven't found the right thing yet.  That's all.  I really hope something on this works for you, if not everything.  But if it doesn't, just try again.  You don't have to get it right the first time or even the tenth time.  You just have to not give up until you found it. 

So, what are you needing to organize right now?  Make a list and then try to think out of the box to see how you can make it happen!  

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